The International – A Play for Our Times

Image Courtesy of Origin Theatre

Image Courtesy of Origin Theatre

I attended the opening night of this wonderful play which has returned to the New York stage.  The setting of The International  is deceptively simple: three people, in an art gallery, seemingly unrelated.  They each introduce themselves and tell the beginnings of their stories:  Irene, attending a village wedding in an unnamed country;  Hans, a Dutch soldier who joins the international peacekeeping force sent to that country; and Dave, a clueless American truck driver/artist who wages $800 on the outcome of the war as watches it unfold on his TV in Los Angeles.  As their stories unfold, we learn how the war affected each one of them – there are no happy endings here.  Irene recounts how the joyous village wedding was turned into a massacre; Hans confronts the impotence and inability of peacekeepers to protect the villagers; and Dave has to face the crumbling of his marriage and the cynicism that underlies his life.

Seemly based on the July 1995 genocide at Srebrenica (there are no program notes), this play sadly has much relevance for us today, given the conflicts in Syria, Sudan, Libya and other places.  Through their quiet storytelling, the characters raise the larger questions about whether the US and other countries should intervene to protect peoples who are truly unable to defend themselves, and their moral obligations to carry through with their promises of protection.

Even though this is a heavy play, I didn’t find it depressing, but rather extremely thought provoking.  The cast (all of whom were in the original production) of Timothy Carter, Carey van Driest and Ted Schneider deliver superb, riveting, nuanced  performances.  Kudos to writer Tim Ruddy, director Christopher Randolph, and the Urbanite Theatre and Origin Theatre   for producing this. 

The International can be seen Off-Broadway from through Sunday August 2 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons  416 West 42nd Street.   

I recommend it.

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